"I chose SFU because of inspiring intellectual openness and innovation demonstrated by the faculty and program through its embrace of otherwise more "alternative" manners of learning and educating."

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Student Profile: Steven Zhao

Educational Theory & Practice PhD student in the Faculty of Education

February 11, 2021
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I am PhD student in the Faculty of Education currently thinking about the philosophy of education or issues both directly and peripherally related to education through philosophical perspectives. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the transformative learning processes of the radicalization of beliefs and behaviours.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I chose SFU because of inspiring intellectual openness and innovation demonstrated by the faculty and program through its embrace of otherwise more "alternative" manners of learning and educating. Based on my experiences with faculty members, students, and graduate programs, the academic atmosphere is not one that solely aims to deepen the depth of one's intellectual space. It is one that thankfully assumes the student not only as a mind in a meaty vehicle but as a living person inherent within a scholarly, critical, and ethical network that functions to sustain a freedom for and commitment to meaningful scholarship.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

My research looks at how and why people change in their fundamental belief systems (i.e., political/religious ideologies) that result in violent behaviours. That is, can we truly conclude that the result of violent behaviours through certain ideologies are simply due to the internalization of their ideas? To conclude that "bad" behaviours derive from "bad" beliefs is to simultaneously characterize such human situations as almost some cognitive machines that are infected by some viral software of ideas that produce malfunctioning results. Yet, this is not necessarily so. The human situation is some complex conglomerations of the cognitive, bodily, social, and so forth in such manners that the specific facts of their different categories are necessarily debatable (and should remain so). So, if human beings can enact destructive horrors under the shared and declared marches, chants, and auspices of some political/religious ideologies, the fact of the minimal complexity of how we operate should (at the very least) inject a running skepticism to belief systems/ideologies as solely accountable for developing extremist behaviours. Ultimately, I am working to see if I can unpack this complexity a bit more.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

Freedom and support!

Contact Steven: steven_zhao@sfu.ca

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